Miami-Dade police are asking for help in solving what they’re calling a “heinous and violent attack” that left a Black trans woman, Alexus Braxton, dead.
Braxton, who was also known as Kimmy Icon Braxton, is at least the sixth trans person to die violently in the U.S. in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The organization found that 44 trans and gender non-confirming people were killed last year—the most deaths in a single year since 2013, when the Human Rights Campaign first started tracking this statistic. Most were Black or Latinx trans women.
“There’s no sense of urgency,” said Tatiana Williams, Braxton’s chosen mother and the executive director of the Transinclusive Group, a South Florida LGBTQ+ advocacy group. “I think the lack of compassion [and] understanding is why this continues to happen. You don’t hear your politicians or you don’t hear law enforcement or you don’t hear people speaking to these deaths, because I think it doesn’t resonate.”
So far this year, five of the six trans people who have died violently were Black trans women. (There may be more trans or gender non-confirming people who have died; due to a lack of attention or even misreporting by the police and the media, it can be difficult for advocates to track deaths.)
In a 2015 survey of almost 28,000 trans adults in the U.S., the National Center for Transgender Equality found that nearly half of Black respondents said that they’d been “denied equal treatment, verbally harassed, and/or physically attacked in the past year because of being transgender.”
Braxton, who was 45, was found dead in her apartment on February 4, according to Miami-Dade police, who confirmed that she was murdered in a video posted to Twitter Monday. The police are offering up to a $5,000 reward for anyone who provides information that may lead to the arrest of the person who killed Braxton.
“The family was left with no closure, and they're suffering tremendously because of the death and the manner in which our victim passed away, was murdered,” Juan Segovia, a police detective, said in the video.
But Williams was critical of the police, who she said had failed to find multiple trans women’s killers over the last two decades. In that Twitter video, she said that police used Braxton’s “deadname,” or Braxton’s former name, to refer to her.
Miami-Dade police had no comment on the deadnaming, Detective Khristopher Welch told VICE News.
“I know that the police department is dedicated to its constituents and our detectives are doing everything that they can in order to solve this crime,” Welch said. “Sometimes the investigative process takes a long period of time, but those investigators are still adamant and are doing all that they can.”
On February 8, four days after Braxton was found dead, her community held a candlelit vigil and released balloons into the air in her honor, according to a Facebook post. Braxton was active on Facebook, frequently posting her looks or about her hopes for the future and resilience despite adversity. She celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris with an illustration of the two hugging.
“She’s one of those people that is the life of the party,” said Williams, adding Braxton was her “late-night phone buddy” who kept her updated on gossip. “She’s loving, she’s fun, and she’s family-oriented.”
The Biden administration has already taken steps to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination, including through implementing a 2020 Supreme Court decision that blocks employees from discriminating against workers due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. During his presidential campaign, Biden also explicitly addressed the deadly violence facing trans and gender-non-conforming people, which he called an “epidemic that needs national leadership.”
“These deaths don’t exist within a vacuum,” he said in an October statement. “Dehumanizing government actions and rhetoric as well as a failure to address risk factors like domestic and intimate partner violence, underemployment and unemployment and poverty, housing insecurity and health disparities, put this community at risk.”
“The president has made really clear that he is committing to combatting the epidemic of violence against transgender individuals and LGBTQ community,” Jennifer Molina, the White House senior director of coalitions media, told VICE News. The Biden administration, she said, wants to put federal resources behind prioritizing the prosecution of people who hurt trans people and tracking violent deaths in the trans community.